Climb: A Goat’s Poem

Climb: A Goat’s Poem

Inspired by my latest trip up a 12,000ft Mountain

Up with the stars

Illuminate, appreciate, breathe deeply

This is why I climb

Smell of strong coffee wafting

Silent contemplation, sipping cool air and hot liquid

This is why I climb

Trailhead beckons

Time stays timeless, one foot in front of another

This is why I climb


White Aspen cut the Black Darkness, standing sentinel

This is why I climb

Dawn breaks

pink, purple, blue streaks painted by the unseen sun as the stars give way

This is why I climb

Air thinning

Mind sharpening, senses dulling, come back

This is why I climb




This is why I climb

Jagged rocks, dampening socks, ropes through belays

Fear is my companion, Adrenaline is my mistress

This is why I climb

Summit push

False, always another, always over the horizon


This is why I climb


Listen, look, sun above me, clouds below me, a vast canvas stretching

This is why I climb


Muscles aching, mind longing, heart pounding, feet never stop

This is why I climb

Looking back to see the beast

Something accomplished, to say the least

Every day will now feel sweeter

Every moment will pass completer

Do not relent, Do not give in

Until the mountain calls from within

This is Why I Climb


This poem was  constructed as the crew and a few of our beloved guests climbed Humphrey’s Peak, the high point in the state of Arizona at 12,635ft above sea level.  As a former volcano, it is one of the more strenuous, rewarding climbs one can do in our beautiful state.  We hope you enjoyed The Goat’s original work, and we hope that it inspires you to climb your own mountain!

May The Goat be always with you

For The Goat’s Geologic Musings visit his Personal Blog

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Arizona’s Superstition Mountains: Lost Gold and Sweet Hiking

Arizona’s Superstition Mountains: Lost Gold and Sweet Hiking

Celebrated as perhaps the premier wilderness area within an hour of a metropolitan area, the Superstition Mountains boast flawless beauty, fabulous geology, and epic hiking and adventure opportunity.  However, their most supreme treasures lie in legend, alluring, mysterious, and intriguing legend that beg of exploration both physical and mental.

Here in these mountains lies potentially the most wealthy, vast, and extraordinary mining discovery in Arizona (and perhaps the entire Old West), which of course was legendary in and of itself for the mining discoveries that led to the rapid Western Expansion of the mid-to-late 1800’s.  This legend entwines geology and mystery, and just may be the West’s final and greatest secret: The Lost Dutchman Gold Mine.

Peralta Canyon Superstition Wilderness

History of the Superstition Mountains

Situated northeast of present-day Phoenix, the Superstition Mountains have long offered respite, shelter, and resources to those looking.  Long before the herds of European settlers headed west, many of them streaming into southwest’s boomtowns of lore such as Tombstone, Bisbee, Jerome, and Goldfield, the Hohokam and Salado Puebloans inhabited the area 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, farming, trading, hunting, and building the water canals that laid the framework for 20th century Phoenicians.

Weaver's Needle Superstition Wilderness

After their as-of-yet unexplained migration or disappearance from the region, the Sonoran Desert saw many generations of explorers, prospectors, and Native American tribes pass through.  The Spanish, led by Marcos de Niza, passed through here in search of riches and the promised-land in the early late 16th and 17th centuries.

Their descendants in the newly independent Mexico roamed the land thereafter, trading and prospering with the newly-founded United States of America in the late 1700’s when Arizona was officially part of Mexico.

Settlers of the Superstition Mountains

After the Mexican-American War and the Gadsden Purchase of 1848, Arizona became part of the United States, and along with it the beautiful Superstition Mountains.  The Superstitions, however, remained fiercely-guarded Apache Territory until Geronimo’s surrender in 1886, though some rugged individuals did make this area their home.

Peralta Canyon Trail Superstition Wilderness

Among these rugged individuals was a man named Jakob Waltz, a German immigrant who had prospected all over the west including California and several areas of Arizona such as Prescott, where he was documented in various census reports.

He claimed a homestead north of the Salt River in 1868, and according to folks in the area, prospected almost daily in the area until the great Phoenix flood of 1891 drove him from his land.  He died that same year in the home of a close friend, to whom he is said to have divulged the location of a gold mine, the likes of which nobody had ever seen.

The location, given in riddle-like clues, has attracted treasure-hunters and dreamers for over a century now, and the legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine is as popular a story as it has ever been among those who love this wonderful area.

Lost Dutchman Trail Superstition Wilderness

How did the Superstition Mountains form?

Geologically-speaking, the Superstition Mountains are evidence of a monstrous volcanic explosion that took place roughly 30 million years ago.  What we (geologists) typically find in this area are welded tuffs (compacted volcanic ash).

The tuff found in the Superstitions  indicates a gas content that could only occur in the most violent of eruptions, and the level of welding in the tuff backs this up with the temperatures that would have to be necessary to create this kind of rock.

Long story short, the eruption that created this fantastically scenic landscape is, in geologic terms, not a place where one would typically expect a gold mine of any kind to be present, much less one that produces the kind of ore that Mr. Waltz purported to have stashed here.

Lost Dutchman Trail Superstition Wilderness

More Rock Talks

New studies indicate that an intrusive batholith may underlie the Superstitions, and intrusions are where gold, silver, copper, and other valuable ores are typically located, as they are formed in the hydrothermal activity that is prevalent in these intrusions (magma cooling underground close to the surface, i.e. granite).

So, it may be possible that Mr. Waltz’s bonanza is the product of this intrusion, and therefore deep underground that ban be accessed only by cave or canyon.  This location is belied by some of the cryptic clues he gave to his friend on his deathbed, so the legend may yet be true.

Indeed, the resurrected ghost town of Goldfield just 20 miles to the west of the Superstition Mountains known the west over for its high-grade gold ore, was a place where gold was discovered, mined, and profited from.  Goldfield is geologic proof that gold does, in fact, exist in the general area even though the play petered out quite quickly.

Peralta Canyon Trail Superstition Wilderness

The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

There are many questions that still exist as to the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine: namely, where is it?  Did it really exist?  Was it simply a story to promote tourism in the area, of which Mr. Waltz’s friends certainly profited by?  If Jakob Waltz’s gold was real, and some have testified that it certainly is, was it mined?

Or perhaps was it the lost stash of the Peralta family, before they were massacred by Apaches? Maybe is was an Apache stash before they were massacred by miners?

Evidence may suggest that either the Peraltas, a Mexican family for which a trail in the Superstition Wilderness is named, or the Apaches had struck bonanza gold just four miles from present-day Apache Junction, then hid it deep in the Superstition Mountains before they met an untimely end.

Lost Dutchman Trail Superstition Wilderness

Whatever the real story, the legend of The Lost Dutchman Gold Mine and the Superstition Mountains attract thousands of curious visitors, avid hikers, and metaphorical treasure hunters year after year.  Just to be in this outstanding wilderness area is to be surrounded by beauty, mystery, history, and the geology that is the foundation for it all.

Call us for more information about hiking in the Superstition Mountains, or enjoy this wilderness with one of our outstanding geologist/guides who will take you to the secret spots and let you in on the wondrous mysteries that surround the fabulous Superstition Mountains!

May The Goat be always with you

For The Goat’s Geologic Musings visit his Personal Blog

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Death Valley: 10 Cool Facts at 134 Degrees

Death Valley: 10 Cool Facts at 134 Degrees

There is a place so vast, so beautiful, so unique, and so special that it nearly defies comprehension.  This is Death Valley.  Located in the howling wilds of the Mojave Desert along the border of California and Nevada, Death Valley is at the same time magnificent and overwhelming in sheer size, beauty, and adventure opportunity.  In our opinion, it is world-famous for all the wrong reasons.  When most think of Death Valley, they think of it being the place where the hottest temperature on Earth was recorded; 134 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact on July 10, 1913.  Even the name itself conjures up images of things literally bursting into flames; a place that is at the least not enjoyable, and at the worst, the terrestrial version of The Inferno.


While Death Valley itself does hold that distinction, the surrounding areas are quite pleasant during the summer months, and see up to feet of snow in the winter.  The Goat aims to shed some new light on this wondrous, mysterious, gorgeous, and astonishing area, and he has put together his very best “Did You Know?” list about Death Valley!

1.  Did you know that the vertical distance between the lowest and highest points in Death Valley is over 11,000 feet?

Telescope Peak, the highest peak in the Panamint Mountains that tower over Death Valley, is 11,049 feet above sea level.  Its lofty peak is less than 15 miles away from the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level.  This nearly incomprehensible juxtaposition is a feat that is only accomplished by the complex tectonics and unique geology that govern Death Valley’s highs and lows.


2.  Did you know that Death Valley should really be called “Life Valley?”

Death Valley National Park is home to numerous lizard and reptile species, bighorn sheep, antelope, snakes, Gila monsters, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, several species of owl, rodents, and hundreds of plant and tree species including cottonwood, oak, Joshua trees, and various pines, as well as many species of cactus.  The perception that it is a barren, lifeless desert could not be further from reality, as it houses one of the greatest biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.

3.  Did you know that you can play golf then soak in hot springs in Death Valley?

You and the Devil.  Furnace Creek Golf Club boasts a full 18-hole course that challenges golfers of all levels, and the Devil’s Golf Course is one of the most excellent salt flats in the world.  Visitors to Death Valley can easily see both in a day, so get ready to dance with the Devil! After dancing, feel free to soak luxuriously in Furnace Creek Hot Springs, the park’s developed and fantastically rejuvenating hot natural hot spring.

4.  Did you know that Death Valley is the largest National Park in the contiguous 48?

At 3.4 million acres, it dwarfs many of our National Parks including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and even Yellowstone in sheer size.  In fact, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone together would fit inside Death Valley!


5.  Did you know that one of Earth’s rarest species exists in Death Valley?

The Devil’s Hole Pupfish, one of the most rare and beautiful species of fish in the world, exists in Death Valley and only Death Valley.  In fact, the park is home to several species that are not just indigenous, but exist here almost exclusively.

6.  Did you know that Mt. Whitney is in the next mountain range over?

Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states at 14,465 feet above sea level, lies in the Sierra Nevada just west of Death Valley.  This means that the highest and lowest points in the lower 48 are less than 100 miles apart!

7.  Did you know that in 1929, not a single drop of rain fell in Death Valley?

Yep, not one.  Death Valley is the driest place in North America, averaging less than 5 inches of rain per year.  The howling deserts of places like Arizona and even the Sahara Desert of Africa average more, making Death Valley one of the driest places on the globe.

8.  Did you know that Death Valley is home to some of the best-preserved human history sites in the Unites States?

Both modern and ancient history are on fabulous display here in Death Valley.  Archaeological evidence dates back to over 9,000 years ago, as petroglyphs and various Puebloan artifacts can be found all over the park.  In addition, the Timbisha Shoshone Native American Tribe has called Death Valley home for over 1,000 years.  There is colorful mining and European history here as well, as Death Valley got its name from frustrated and thirsty prospectors in 1848.  There are numerous well-preserved mining claims and historical artifacts, and even a wickedly cool ghost town! (Check out our Surprise Canyon Backpacking Tour)


9.  Did you know Death Valley is a favorite for Hollywood movie sets?

Dozens of scenes from Star Wars have been filmed in Death Valley, including Artist’s Palette (the Sandcrawler scene from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Golden Canyon (Jawa scenes from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (Droid scenes from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).  Also, cult classic film Tremors was filmed in the Owens Valley just one range over, and many of the shots in this excellent movie gaze onto the west side of the Panamint Mountains.  Check out The Goat’s Geology Blogto learn more about Tremors and other great geology movies!

10.  Did you know that Death Valley has some of the most outrageous geology in the world?

The geologic display in Death Valley is nothing short of astonishing.  Home to three major faults, Death Valley is a wild melange of nearly-billion year-old sediments (very rare), contorted metamorphics, twisted volcanics, and more mineralization and hydrothermal staining than you could shake a geologic hammer at.  A quintessential example of the extensional tectonics that have created the Basin and Range Province, Death Valley is not to be missed by the geologist child in all of us.


Bonus:  Did you know that Death Valley can be a great place in all seasons (even summer)?

You read that right; all seasons, even summer.  Crazy?  Ridiculous?  Suicidal?  Nope, just the truth.  The Panamint Mountains, which reach to over 11,000 feet, stay cool even as the summer heat blisters the valley below.  This is a perfect time to summit many of Death Valley’s most lofty peaks, including Telescope Peak, it’s highest point.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism is ecstatic to be rolling out our guided Death Valley hiking tours!  Let our geologist/guides show you the wonder and whimsy of one of the most fantastically outrageous places on the face of the Earth.  You’ll be glad you got past the name and into the wild!

May The Goat be always with you

For The Goat’s Geologic Musings visit his Personal Blog

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How to Win the Wave Lottery

How to Win the Wave Lottery

How Do I Win the Wave Lottery?

It is called “The Hardest Permit to Get in the USA” by Outside and Backpacker Magazines.  Your chances stand at roughly 3% on any given day.  People enter month after month for, in some cases, years before winning (if they ever do).  No doubt that The Wave of the Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona is one of the most sought-after destinations in the southwest, and the BLM’s daily quota of just 20 visitors makes it a tough proposition.  Is there a strategy that can be employed to increase your chances?  We sent The Goat out to do a hard target investigation.  This is what he found:

The Setup

In order to lend ourselves the best chances, we started by pegging dates that were during the week. We decided on having an average group size (4), and picking presumably less-popular times of the year.  We divided our applications between the online lottery and the in-person lottery. The in-person lottery is held daily at the BLM office in Kanab, Utah.  We had all four people in our “group” apply online, and sent one of our group to the in-person lottery.  Our goal was to employ a “blanket” strategy to best monopolize our potential chances. We could also properly calculate what, if any, our success rate might be.  Over the course of two months, we employed this strategy following these criteria, and logged our failures and successes.

The Online Lottery

The Wave’s online lottery is where this permit gets it ornery reputation.  With the in-person lottery being highly inconvenient for the vast majority of applicants, this lottery is not far from playing the Powerball Jackpot and hoping to win even a modest prize.  The BLM splits permits 10/10 for the online and in-person for 20 people each day, so you can imagine what your odds might be.  It’s like elbowing through throngs of crazed teenage girls at an NSYNC concert circa 1997.  To play this game of chance visit the BLM’s Wave Permit Page.

The In-Person Lottery

The Wave’s in-person lottery, though inconvenient for most, can give the applicant a slightly better chance.  For our purposes, we camped near the BLM office and tried to be the first to the door at opening time (8:30am, 7 days a week).  In-person permits are typically offered for the next day, although if permits were not filled they may issue you one for the same day.

Kanab Visitor Center in Kanab, UT 745 US-89, Kanab, UT 84741

Playing the Odds

Our success rate at the conclusion of our experiment was quite low, as expected, for the online lottery.  Given the cost of the permit ($7/person if you win, with a non-refundable $5 application fee for each application), and the low chances of winning, this strategy is not so much a strategy as a commitment.  We spent nearly $500 and obtained two permits for middle-of-the-week in late November, and one in early February.  Our final odds of winning, given our failure vs. success rate was a paltry 10%. (20 application, 2 permits).

Though this is higher than the national average, this was our own success rate and not measured against all other applicants.  We imagine that the advertised 4% success rate is perhaps even slightly higher than actual.  That being said, the thrill of victory is tangible in the face of numerous defeats.  Our testers literally cheered and danced when permits were issued.  Worth the sacrifice!

On the flip side, the In-Person lottery yielded excellent success.  Our employed strategy of having a camper near the BLM office paid off nearly 100% of the time.  In fact, the only time it was not successful was when our camper slept through his alarm and ended up being buried in line.  The trick to the in-person permit is this: one person may apply for one permit, regardless of group size (up to 10).  For example, only three people may apply, but they may each have parties of 4 or more, meaning that only two groups would be successful, and only two people from the remaining group would be issued a permit.  For fairness purposes, we gave our permits to those who were behind us.  Pay it forward!

The Goat’s Conclusion

Hiking The Wave is a must for anyone interested in wild scenery, challenge, photography, and of course geology.  Though winning a permit through The Wave lottery can be an adventure in and of itself, it is highly advisable to take the plunge.  Persistence, perseverance, realistic expectations, and a disciplined system with a set budget will pay off eventually.  If at all possible, the in-person lottery is absolutely the way to go.  But, if this is not a possibility for you at all, you must bear the challenge of the online lottery, which even when employed with a strategy can be difficult to win.

How You Can Apply for Permits to The Wave

Permits to Coyote Buttes North (The Wave) and South are issued by lottery, both online and in-person as discussed.  For Coyote Buttes North, the cost is $7/person on the permit, and for Coyote Buttes South the cost is $5/person.  For other parts of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, as well as the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness just to the north, permits are free and supplied at the trailheads of Wire Pass, White House, and for other areas such as White Pocket.  Any overnight stay requires a backcountry permit, obtained either at the trailhead or the Kanab Visitor Center.  Be advised there is no overnight camping allowed in the Coyote Buttes permit area.

Permits to The Wave can be applied for four months in advance of your requested date.  You have an entire month to apply, and you can apply for up to three entry dates per application.  If you are successful you will be authorized for one of the days.  There is a non-refundable $5 fee to apply, and you will be notified of the first of the month via e-mail whether or not your application was successful.


Let’s say you wanted to visit Coyote Buttes North (The Wave) in April. Here is the procedure you would follow.

1.  Go to the Permit Page between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31.
2.  Follow the directions, choosing up to three possible entry dates. If successful, you will only be authorized one date.
3.  You will be notified via e-mail the first day in January whether your lottery application was successful or not.
4.  After being notified, you will have 14 calendar days to pay for your permit. You can pay online with your credit card. Your e-mail notification will contain a link to a secure web page, where you can go to pay and submit the remainder of your trip information.
5.  Your permit will be mailed to you four to six weeks after you have paid your fees, unless you chose the option to pick it up in Kanab, St. George, or the Paria Contact Station when you filled out your permit application.

The way the lottery works essentially nullifies any attempt to be an “early bird gets the worm” type of situation, and you have as good of a chance of winning the lottery regardless of your application date or time.  Applications received in the month of April, for example, have equal chances of being selected for permits issued in August regardless of what day in April the application was received by the BLM.

Rules and Regulations

From time to time, people will ask us “can I go to The Wave without a permit?”  The answer here is simply, NO.  Your permit must be displayed visibly on your pack/person at all times, must account for all people in your group, be paid in full, and for the dates displayed on the permit.  Violation of any of these will result in immediate ejection from Coyote Buttes, and a $1200/person fine.  Multiple violations can result in lifetime bans, and even federal criminal trespassing charges.  But what are the chances you’ll be caught in such a remote place?  The Wave, while remote in terms of general ideal, is very popular and highly regulated.

The BLM devotes quite a bit of time and resources to The Wave for safety, environmental study, and conservation purposes.  Though they are not “out to get you”, they will enforce regulations.  The chances of having your hiking party interact with a BLM Ranger in the Coyote Buttes area is almost 100%.  Please, please go through the permitting process.  The more people that violate the regulations may result in stricter rules, less permits, and even a shutdown of the area altogether.

Safety and Transportation

Located adjacent to highway 89A near the Arizona/Utah border, The Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is one of the most spectacular, wild, and unspoiled places in the American Southwest.  Consequently, it is a rugged place that can be difficult to navigate.  Do not even consider visiting The Wave, or any other part of Vermillion Cliffs without 4WD (AWD is NOT 4WD), several detailed maps, a compass, GPS (not in-dash), and plenty of water.  If heading to White Pocket or Coyote Buttes, be prepared to drive in sand, which can be very challenging if you have not done it before.  Many a truck have been lampooned in the sands of Vermillion Cliffs.

Going Guided

So you’ve won the lottery, great job!  Now you need to get there and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to its fullest extent.  A guide can be an invaluable resource in a place like this, and there a no better than the geologist/guides of Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism.  We will help you plan your visit from start to finish and ensure that you see all the highlights of Vermillion Cliffs (more than just The Wave).  After your epic adventure we get you back safe and sound, and guarantee an intensely special and memorable experience.

The Final Word

Everybody wants to go to The Wave and The Wave is absolutely worth the visit.  It’s a right of passage for many world travelers and backcountry adventurers.  However, the lottery and regulations can make it tough to see, particularly if the online lottery is your only possibility.  Coyote Buttes South permits are somewhat easier permits to obtain, and still works on the calendar system, giving you the possibility of specifically choosing a date.  Your chances are much higher (like 25% higher), and Coyote Buttes South has some astounding and gorgeous scenery.

White Pocket also is among the most fabulous places in the Southwest, and regarded by some as even more spectacular than The Wave and Coyote Buttes North.  It only requires a day permit and has no lottery, making it highly accessible.  Other areas of the Vermillion Cliffs such as Paria Canyon and the Buckskin Gulch are among the most excellent canyons in the world, with Buckskin Gulch in particular being regarded as the longest, deepest slot in the world.  Whatever your choice, rest assured that just because you didn’t score that permit to The Wave you won’t be missing out on some of the best the American Southwest has to offer.

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring Vermillion Cliffs and The Wave is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides.  Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore.  In conclusion, you can visit wild places, but going with a guide can create an even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

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Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time — Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism


How Long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon?

How Long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon?

How long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon

Like many of the questions about Grand Canyon, this one has several different and nuanced answers.  Will you travel by foot, mule, or helicopter?  How much gear might you be carrying?  Are you a fit hiker, or is this your first time?  Are you approaching from North Rim or South Rim?  The Goat is here to break down all of these options!


Let’s begin with the most popular, and easily the most rewarding style of travel in Grand Canyon; a good old-fashioned, one foot in front of the other journey into the depths of time and space.

Some Advice before you Begin

First and foremost, the National Park Service (and The Goat) advises that nobody, under any circumstances, should attempt the hike from rim-to-river and back in one day.  Attempting to hike rim-to-river and back in a day has resulted in many deaths over the years, along with countless cases of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and severe dehydration among other delightful afflictions.  Before we get into the fun, fabulous parts of hiking in Grand Canyon, we must first be clear about this practice.

Inverted Mountains Are Sneaky

Grand Canyon Hikers must remember one mantra; going down is optional, coming up is mandatory.  The NPS must execute hundreds of rescues each year on hikers that run into trouble.  Grand Canyon is a hostile, dry, and unforgiving place that yields no mercy.  Summertime temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees, there is little water on any trails, and even less shade.

Hiking in Grand Canyon is often referred to as “hiking a mountain in reverse”.  That is, your descent comes first, while your ascent is how you must finish.  This can fool hikers easily, as walking down is an easy, breezy, view-saturated adventure that can quickly get out of hand.  Many hikers that find trouble simply started walking down the trail, suddenly realizing that they are five miles down having barely broken a sweat.


Perhaps the most potentially dangerous thing about undertaking any hike in Grand Canyon is the particular lack of water.  Many hikes the world over cross numerous streams, have shade, and/or easy access to clean, potable water.  This is not the case in Grand Canyon, as water sources are extremely limited.  Two South Rim hikes (Tanner, South Kaibab) have no accessible water source of any kind until the Colorado River.

Other South Rim trails (Hermit, Bright Angel) have access to water along the trail, but not for at least 3.5 miles.  Always carry plenty of water when hiking in Grand Canyon.  The Goat recommends a minimum of 3L/person, no matter the distance of the hike.

Spatial Perception

Much like the sneakiness of the inverted mountain, things in Grand Canyon tend to appear much closer than they actually are.  At times it feels as though you could literally reach out and touch the Colorado River, or even just a portion of trail beneath you.  Go to Desert Watchtower on the East Rim.  From the Tanner Trail, you are presented with an astonishing view of the mighty Colorado, a unique rim view in Grand Canyon.  Though the river is over 9 miles away by trail, an optical illusion is presented that makes the river feel close.

This is a difficult lesson for many hikers in Grand Canyon.  Our destination is just right over there!  It looks so close!  Believe us, it is not.  Between the necessarily winding trail, the relentless sun, the lack of water, and the absence of shade, something that optically appears close becomes seemingly further away in reality.  Remember that the scale presented to your senses in Grand Canyon is typically unlike anything you’ve ever experience.  Those of us that have spent years in this wondrous landscape are still blown away by its size and space.  In Grand Canyon, perception is often NOT reality.

Let’s Start Hiking!

At last, we can actually talk about hiking!  Hiking in Grand Canyon is a magical, perhaps even spiritual experience.  The colors, sights, sounds, smells, and ever-changing conditions create an intensely dramatic and memorable experience on even short hikes.  As you hike though 2 billion years of Earth’s history, the Canyon reveals itself step-by-step, both physically and philosophically.  In terms of trails and the time it takes to reach the bottom, here are your options:

South Rim

The South Rim presents most of the park’s developed trails, has the “shortest” routes to the river at the bottom, and is by a wide margin the more popular of the two rims.  There are 4 developed trails from the South Rim, and 1 trail that is undeveloped and unmaintained.

Bright Angel

The Bright Angel Trail is the most popular trail in Grand Canyon.  It traces the path of the Bright Angel Fault, through Indian Gardens, across the Tonto bench, and down to the river in 9.6 miles.  This highly trafficked corridor trail teems with other hikers and rangers aplenty, great for beginners introducing themselves to Grand Canyon hiking.  Hikers can reach the river and Bright Angel Campground in between 4-5 hours.

South Kaibab

The South Kaibab Trail is the steeper counterpart of the Bright Angel Trail, and plunges to the river in an abrupt 6.4 miles.  Holding the distinction as the only trail in the park developed completely by the NPS, it is a more direct route to the river for those looking for speed.  Connecting South Kaibab to Bright Angel via the Tonto Trail is a classic backpacking trip that many first-timers find welcoming.  Hiking to the river along the South Kaibab Trail typically takes between 3-4 hours.

Hermit Trail

The Hermit Trail follows a route forged by Canyon pioneer Louis Boucher, also known as “the Hermit of Grand Canyon”.  Mr. Boucher led a reclusive life at the bottom of the Canyon for roughly 20 years, guiding tourists, mining, and homesteading.  His pioneer route was improved by the Santa Fe Railroad company in the early 1900s, and today presents an excellent alternative to the more crowded corridor trails.  The Hermit Trail descends 8.9 miles to the river, and will take the average hiker between 4-5 hours to reach the bottom.

Tanner Trail

The Tanner Trail is perhaps the most exciting and more challenging of developed routes from the South Rim.  The trail presents sweeping views across eastern Grand Canyon, with views of Marble Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs to the north.  The Grand Canyon Supergroup, a suite of tilted, faulted, 1 billion year-old sedimentary rocks that symbolize the Great Unconformity are revealed in splendor here, a perspective unique to this part of the canyon.  The Tanner trail is 9.3 miles long, and hikers may reach the river in 4-5 hours.

South Bass

The South Bass trail, set roughly 25 miles west of the South Rim Visitor’s Center, is easily the most rugged trail from the South Rim.  Reached by a 4WD trail, the drive here takes roughly 2.5 hours.  The trail itself was carved by William Wallace Bass, and early pioneer and promoter of tourism in Grand Canyon.  South Rim solitude is found in droves here, wildlife abundant, and views outstanding.  The trail is 12.2 miles long, and will take the average hiker 5-7 hours to reach the river.

North Rim

The less popular, more contemplative North Rim presents Grand Canyon hikers with opportunities for more challenges, more solitude, and a decidedly different perspective of Grand Canyon.  Set at over 8,500 feet above sea level, North Rim is a forested wonderland of rolling meadows, wildflower, and perhaps even a glimpse of one of the iconic symbols of the west, the American Bison.  Access requires longer drive times, and trails here retain a fairly rugged character.  Like the South Rim, do not even dream of attempting a rim-to-river-to-rim hike in one day.  North Rim trails are long, can be challenging, and are generally reserved for more-experienced Grand Canyon hikers.

Much of the Colorado River system that has carved Grand Canyon emanates from the north.  Consequently, in contrast to South Rim, North Rim is “set back” from the river, following long, meandering routes coursed by ancient tributaries.  South Rim’s dramatic and abrupt cliff faces and 4000-foot plunges are a product of the lack of water flowing into the river from the south, while North Rim landscapes are dominated by softer relief.

North Kaibab

Counterpart to the South Kaibab Trail, North Kaibab is North Rim’s most accessible and least rugged trail.  It is the only North Rim trail maintained by the NPS.  The trail is follows a 28 miles route to the river, and most hikers will find that it takes 2-3 days to reach the river.  Keep in mind that this is the least-challenging trail on North Rim.

Nankoweap Route

Notice the use of the word “route”, as opposed to the use of the word “trail” in the name.  This is for a reason, as Nankoweap is really not a trail in the traditional sense.  It is lightly trafficked, unmaintained, and follows an ambitiously-descending ridge along the East Kaibab Monocline.  Hikers descend 14.8 miles along the trail, and average hikers may reach the river in 1-2 days. Get ready.  Get set. Go!

North Bass

The North Bass Trail is, of course, the North Rim counterpart to South Rim’s Bass Trail.  William Wallace Bass, pioneer of Grand Canyon, carved this route as part of his efforts to promote tourism in Grand Canyon.  The trail follows faults, rock falls, and sublime canyon scenery 14.5 miles to the river.  Hikers may reach the river in 1-2 days.  This is perhaps the quintessential trail in Grand Canyon, as it contains just about everything hiking here has to offer.  Try an exciting Rim-to-Rim backpacking tour on the Bass Trail, complete with a pack rafting adventure!

Seeing Grand Canyon on Muleback

The National Park Service maintains a mule farm on both North and South Rims.  Visitors to Grand Canyon may elect to have their gear carried to their campsite by pack mule, a decidedly easier alternative to carrying your own gear.  Please consider your choice carefully when selecting a mule outfitter.

Several private companies have been fined and banned from Grand Canyon for animal abuse and cruelty.  Check the Park Service’s website for more information about mule rides in Grand Canyon.  Contact us to learn more about mule-assisted backpacking tours.

Imbibing in a mule-assisted trip to the river certainly takes a load off, however it does not save time.  Hikers must still make their way on foot, or on the back of a mule whose goal is not speed.  Mule trips down to the river typically take between 4-5 hours.

See Grand Canyon by Helicopter

One of the fairly new enterprises in Grand Canyon is the proliferation of helicopter tours.  They are popular particularly in western Grand Canyon, where helicopters buzz through the air almost constantly.  The Goat’s opinion is this — get your butt off your couch and onto your feet.  Need more information?  Please look elsewhere :). Helicopters create several problems in Grand Canyon.  Helicopters create pollution, both noise and exhaust. They destroy any perceived wilderness experience.  They damage wildlife patterns, and best of all (sarcasm) they crash!  In the past 7 years, there have been 3 helicopter crashes that resulted in fatalities.  The most recent of these was near Peach Springs in 2017, when 5 passengers and the pilot died.  One woman was rescued, and is scarred for life both physically and mentally.  Take my advice — don’t contribute to the proliferation of industrial tourism in Grand Canyon.


Surely you’ve heard this numerous times, but please be in reasonable physical condition.  Undertaking any hiking in Grand Canyon is a decidedly physical challenge, and it will increase your enjoyment as well as decrease your chances of trouble if you are in shape.  For more information, see our blog post regarding training for hiking in Grand Canyon.

Guided Grand Canyon Hiking Tours

Perhaps the very best way to see and experience Grand Canyon is by hiring a professional guide service.  Hiking with people who know the Grand Canyon intimately vastly improves your experience and understanding of this unreal place, and not having to deal with logistics, food, gear, and all that madness only enhances the trip.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides everything need; geologist/guides with actual geology degrees and professional certifications, backcountry meals inspired by professional chefs, top-of-the-line gear, and outstanding customer service.

The Goat’s Final Word

There you have it, folks.  You asked how long does it take walk down the Grand Canyon, and we have outlined virtually every possible eventuality!  Whether by foot (awesome), by mule (still awesome), helicopter (not cool), from North or South Rim, by land or bey sea, you now have some idea of how long it takes.  Happy Hiking!

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How Hot Does It Get In The Grand Canyon?

How Hot Does it Get in the Grand Canyon?

With the summer months officially upon us, it has come time to discuss one of the most-asked questions this time of year: how hot does it actually get in Grand Canyon?  The answer is one word, three letters: H-O-T. The Inner Gorge regularly sees temperatures hovering over 110 degrees, and the Phantom Ranch Ranger Station, a popular destination any time of the year, has recorded temperatures as high as 116 degrees.  Grand Canyon is one hot spot in the summertime, my friends.

Why is it so hot?

Several reasons contribute to temperatures in the depths of Grand Canyon.  They may seem fairly obvious, but our bet is that some may be surprising.  Many of our guests are not accustomed to traveling in the American Southwest, and are sometimes surprised at the heat.  The temperatures may be doubly surprising given that elevations at either rim are well over 7000 feet above sea level.  Let’s examine the culprits.


First of all, and most simply, it’s a desert.  Grand Canyon sits on the Colorado Plateau, a saucer-shaped uplift in the Earth’s crust.  The Plateau is sandwiched between two mighty mountain ranges, the Rockies and Sierras, both of which impound much of the moisture in the region.  The Colorado Desert, as it is known to ecologists, lies adjacent to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mojave Desert of California.

Though not as arid as its cousins to the south, the Colorado Desert is a desert nonetheless.  Average annual precipitation across the Plateau is just 10″ in the lowest, hottest spots, The region is studded with laccoltith (granitic dome) mountains that receive snow, but the lowlands are hot and dry places, indeed.

The Rocks

Given its desert nature, much of the Colorado Plateau is a wilderness of naked rock.  Vegetation in the lower elevations is sparse, lending very little shade.  The bare rocks “breathe” heat, inhaling the solar radiation, then exhaling back out into the atmosphere.  The darker and more dense the rock, the more inhaling and exhaling take place.

The rocks of Grand Canyon’s Inner Gorge, known as the Vishnu Metamorphic Complex, are prime candidates for this breathing action.  Their color (very dark, essentially black in most places) and density (metamorphic rocks are extremely dense) make them enormously susceptible to heat absorption.  Given their location in the depths of Grand Canyon, it is no wonder why the inner canyon can feel like a blast furnace in the hottest months.

Even the lighter-colored, less dense sedimentary rocks found in Grand Canyon such as sandstone, shale, and limestone, are very inefficient cooling centers.  No matter where they are in the canyon, the rocks cannot escape the sun, and hikers in Grand Canyon cannot escape the rocks (yay!).

In essence, Grand Canyon behaves like a giant, incredibly scenic parking lot.  The same action that occurs in the vast expanses of concrete jungles known as cities, also occurs here in Grand Canyon and across the naked rock wilderness of the Colorado Plateau.

Elevation Changes

Grand Canyon is a massive, inverted mountain.  The summit of this mountain, the Colorado River, lies at roughly 2000 feet elevation.  The base, respectively North and South Rims, are at impressive elevations of 7500 and 8500 feet.  As you may imagine, this creates significant differences in temperature.  The rule of thumb climbing mountains in in the upward direction is 5 degrees for every thousand feet.  This same rule of thumb applies to inverted mountains.

A nice summer day on the North Rim might be 80 degrees.  This same day temperatures on the South Rim may be a warm, but still relatively comfortable 85+ degrees  Six thousand feet below at Phantom Ranch it will be a balmy 110 degrees.  Temperatures in the sun may exceed 130 degrees.

The forested rims, particularly the lush North Rim, are in climate zones more similar to places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain National Park.  In contrast, the Inner Gorge lies in a climate zone similar to that of Saguaro and Joshua Tree National Parks which are located in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, respectively.

Is there any way to beat the heat?

Staying in the cool pine forests near the Grand Canyon’s North and South Rims is the best bet to beat the heat in the summer.  South Rim regularly sees temperatures in the 90s, but shade is easy to find.  Cool breezes often blow through the stands of ponderosa pine, making a picnic overlooking the canyon very pleasant.

The North Rim is cooler, typically seeing high temperatures in the low-to-mid 80’s.  Stands of aspen forest tremble in the breeze, and at 8500 feet nights get quite cool.  A trip to North Rim is a great way to spend a summer day.  Summertime stars at either rim are a sight to behold.

But I still want to hike….

Hiking in Grand Canyon in the summertime, as you may gather, can be a interesting proposition.  The Goat’s advice is to get out early.  Starting a hike before dawn is a summer rite-of-passage in Grand Canyon.  Avoid hiking during the hottest times of the day (10AM-4PM).  If you are out on the trail during those times, it is a good idea to seek shade where available.  Drink plenty of water (3-4L/person), and eat salty snacks that help your body to retain moisture.  Nuts, Jerky, and cheese make a fantastic meal on the trail, but avoid food high in sugar.

Is it a good idea (or even fun) to go backpacking in the summer?

If you are planning a backpacking trip below the rim during the summer, know what you are in for and prepare for it.  Following the general hiking guidelines outlined earlier is a great start.  Plan your trip so that you will be near water, if possible.  Many hikes from the North Rim have water along the trail, and the Colorado River makes a wonderful and very welcome swimming hole.

Packing correctly is quite helpful as well.  A wide-brimmed hat is key, along with sunglasses and clothing material that wicks moisture.  Synthetic garments work well, and avoid wearing anything that absorbs moisture such as denim or cotton.

What is the best time of year to hike in Grand Canyon?

If you can swing it, Grand Canyon hiking is best enjoyed during the cooler months.  October to April are the best times, with November to March being particularly spectacular.  Although it may be chilly on the rim, hiking in the canyon during these months presents daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s, absolutely perfect for hiking.

Be advised that North Rim is open from May 15 – October 15.  In the off-season there are no services available, and access is quite limited.  In order to access North Rim during the winter, hikers must approach the rim on foot, in snowshoes, or on cross country skies.

Despite summer being warmer, there is no such thing as a bad time to visit Grand Canyon.  Simply hiking along the rim to take in the astounding views is a great summertime activity, but hiking below the rim can be highly enjoyable too.  Following our hiking guidelines will ensure that your backpacking trip or day hike is a safe and fun experience that yields stories and memories to last a lifetime.

Going Guided

Exploring Grand Canyon with a guide service is hands-down the best way to enjoy the canyon.  This is true any time of the year, but is especially true when the temperature starts to rise.  Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism’s guides are certified in CPR and backcountry medicine in addition to being degreed geologists.  This depth of medical knowledge is the key to keeping our guests safe on the trail, particularly when the conditions are not ideal.  Hit us up for more information, or to join an epic backpacking or basecamp hiking tour.

Hiring an outfitter has several benefits.  Namely, we worry about all the other stuff while you enjoy your adventure!  Food, navigation, top-of-the-line gear, and deep knowledge of the landscape is the coup de gras.

The Goat’s Final Word

Grand Canyon presents the intrepid adventurer extraordinary experiences with unique challenges.  Even without the heat, hiking in Grand Canyon can be demanding and requires preparation paired with realistic goals.  Summer heat is certainly among the challenges one will find here, but it can be managed fairly easily by hiking smart.

In fact, the heat offers hikers the opportunity to really slow down and enjoy the vistas unraveling before their eyes.  Hiking by moonlight is an extraordinary experience that not only beats the heat, but presents an altogether different perspective on this wondrous place.  Trust me, wandering through a moonlight-bathed gorge while a Great Horned Owl hoots from the cliffs above is a sublime experience.

Slow down, find some shade, drink some water, and chill.  Post up under a sprawling cottonwood tree.  Have a well-deserved splash in the river or under a waterfall.  Take cues from Grand Canyon wildlife.  Do you see them going hard in the heat?  No?  Then you shouldn’t either.  Above all, don’t force anything.  If you feel hot, slow down.  Don’t be afraid to take care of yourself, your body will thank you.

Contact us for information about Grand Canyon hiking, or step into a geologic time machine on one of our epic Grand Canyon hiking tours

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